Apparently the usual suspects are freaking out again:
When Barbie burst onto scene in a black and white swimsuit in 1959, she was considered a rebel who embodied both “the sensuality of Marilyn Monroe and the innocence of Debbie Reynolds.”
Now, she’s returning to her “fashion model” roots, and not everyone’s pleased.
Barbie caused a stir this week when Mattel and Sports Illustrated revealed that she would appear in the 50th anniversary edition of its annual swimsuit edition in an updated version of her iconic zebra swimsuit. The partnership includes a promotional cover-wrap that will appear on 1,000 copies declaring Barbie “the doll that started it all,” a four-page advertising feature inside the magazine and video outtakes posted online. The doll is also for sale at Target.
The official Barbie Twitter account tweeted about the campaign Monday.
Barbie and the Sports Illustrated swimsuit edition have both been accused of promoting idealized beauty in their own ways. For many, the campaign was problematic because they say the swimsuit edition objectifies women and promoting a homogenous view of beauty.
“It’s actually kind of perfect,” said Occidental College professor Lisa Wade, a feminist and media critic. “Barbie is the perfect model for the SI swimsuit issue. It’s always been about celebrating conventional definitions of attractiveness for women, and Barbie is an icon of idealized femininity.
“Both Barbie and the swimsuit issue have been making women and girls feel inadequate for decades. It’s a perfect partnership.”
Others took issue with blurring the line between women as objects and actual plastic objects.
“Yes, the swimsuit edition is made up entirely of hypersexualized images of women, but this pairing blurs a new line. Barbie is not a woman, she’s an inanimate object. Juxtaposing her alongside real women as though the two are indistinguishable is dehumanizing, and in a literal sense, objectifying,” said Nicole Rodgers, editor-in-chief of RoleReboot.org, an online magazine that focuses on culture and gender roles.
It also comes at a time when many are demanding representations of women without airbrushing or photoshop, she said.
“Featuring a plastic doll as an object of admiration and desire feels like a slap in the face,” Rodgers said.
Throughout the controversy, Mattel has remained “unapologetic,” citing Barbie’s 150 careers, her turns in 26 animated movies and partnerships with renowned fashion designers as evidence that you can be “capable and captivating.”
But nobody is thinking about Barbie’s career trajectory or its positive examples when she’s wearing a one-piece in Sports Illustrated’s swimsuit edition, said California State University-Long Beach professor Shira Tarrant, author of “Men Speak Out: Views on Gender, Sex, and Power.”
“I would never want to deny anyone love for Barbie,” she said, “but my concern is when we use her to present this hyper-sexualized model of beauty.”
After all, CEO Barbie and Dr. Barbie weren’t the dolls appearing in SI.
“When you look at how the lives of women have changed since the doll originally launched, the choice strikes me as particularly tone deaf in 2014,” said Rodgers, of RoleReboot.org. The fact that “the version they want to focus their marketing blitz on is a sexy bikini Barbie tells us something.”
Every year about this time the Sports Illustrated swimsuit edition comes out. I always thought it was overrated, but it is always their biggest seller of the year. And like clockwork, every year about this time the professional feminists get their panties in a twist and throw a hissy fit. I always thought it was an overreaction, but it is usually one of their biggest hissy fits of the year.
Well this year it looks like Mattel is getting in on the action. It’s hard to believe that Barbie is almost 60 years old. She is the most iconic toy ever made. Generations of little girls have grown up playing with her. That’s ironic, because she almost didn’t happen.
Ruth Handler watched her daughter Barbara play with paper dolls, and noticed that she often enjoyed giving them adult roles. At the time, most children’s toy dolls were representations of infants. Realizing that there could be a gap in the market, Handler suggested the idea of an adult-bodied doll to her husband Elliot, a co-founder of the Mattel toy company. He was unenthusiastic about the idea, as were Mattel’s directors.
During a trip to Europe in 1956 with her children Barbara and Kenneth, Ruth Handler came across a German toy doll called Bild Lilli. The adult-figured doll was exactly what Handler had in mind, so she purchased three of them. She gave one to her daughter and took the others back to Mattel. The Lilli doll was based on a popular character appearing in a comic strip drawn by Reinhard Beuthin for the newspaper Die Bild-Zeitung. Lilli was a blonde bombshell, a working girl who knew what she wanted and was not above using men to get it. The Lilli doll was first sold in Germany in 1955, and although it was initially sold to adults, it became popular with children who enjoyed dressing her up in outfits that were available separately.
Upon her return to the United States, Handler reworked the design of the doll (with help from engineer Jack Ryan) and the doll was given a new name, Barbie, after Handler’s daughter Barbara. The doll made its debut at the American International Toy Fair in New York on March 9, 1959. This date is also used as Barbie’s official birthday.
Mattel acquired the rights to the Bild Lilli doll in 1964 and production of Lilli was stopped. The first Barbie doll wore a black and white zebra striped swimsuit and signature topknot ponytail, and was available as either a blonde or brunette. The doll was marketed as a “Teen-age Fashion Model,” with her clothes created by Mattel fashion designer Charlotte Johnson. The first Barbie dolls were manufactured in Japan, with their clothes hand-stitched by Japanese homeworkers. Around 350,000 Barbie dolls were sold during the first year of production.
Ruth Handler believed that it was important for Barbie to have an adult appearance, and early market research showed that some parents were unhappy about the doll’s chest, which had distinct breasts. […]
Barbie was one of the first toys to have a marketing strategy based extensively on television advertising, which has been copied widely by other toys. It is estimated that over a billion Barbie dolls have been sold worldwide in over 150 countries, with Mattel claiming that three Barbie dolls are sold every second.
If their is anything that the hairy-legged man-hater feminist crowd hates almost as much as Y chromosomes it’s that bitch Barbie. She’s an oppressive tool of The Patriarchy. HER PROPORTIONS AREN’T REAL!!!
The reason that Barbie has been so successful isn’t because men belong to a secret conspiracy to oppress women. It’s not because the Mattel corporation wants young women to have self-esteem and body issues.
Barbie can afford that Malibu Beach House and all that cool stuff because for nearly 60 years millions of little girls every year told their parents “I WANT BARBIE!”
I was born male and I have been male all my life. I know what it’s like to be a boy and I know what it is like to be a man. I’m kinda sketchy on females. I still haven’t figured women out, but I learned a lot about girls when my daughter was born.
She has two older brothers who were 5 and 7 when she came along. I always had a fairly easy time buying gifts for them because they liked (and disliked) the same kind of stuff I liked when I was their age.
My daughter was different. I know that some people think we teach gender roles to our kids, but my daughter arrived hard-wired to like different things than her brothers. She liked clothes, and dressing up. She liked stuffed animals. The liked Grease and The Wizard of Oz. She liked Barbie. And she was pretty damn assertive about what she liked and disliked.
It appears that through sheer dumb luck, Mattel came up with a toy that triggers some primal reaction in little girls.
Which brings me to my final point. I have a college friend who has five daughters. I feel sorry for her husband because their place can be a real estrogen fest, especially when his sister and niece are there (which they usually are.)
When the girls were younger they owned the world’s largest naked Barbie collection. They had a big box in the garage filled with naked Barbie dolls. Some were missing their heads too, but every one of them was missing her clothes.
My daughter used to do the same thing with her Barbies. She would play with them for a while but eventually they all ended up naked on the floor. So I asked my friend (who had some kind of degree in headshrinking) why girls do that.
She told me “That’s how girls practice humiliating their rivals.”